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Angela Hunt v. Wick Allison on the Trinity

Yesterday in the comments section to this post, Wick and Councilwoman Angela Hunt got into it over the Trinity (and I’m not talking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Then, after they got into it, at about 2:30 this morning, they really got into it. So let’s get it all up in its own post, shall we?

HUNT (3:53pm) — Wick, you say, “without FHA funding we won’t have the Trinity project.” Aside from the toll road, what parts of the Trinity project do you think the FHA is funding? You also state, “We have to have the parkway if we expect to get FHA funding.” FHA funding for what exactly?

—-

ALLISON (6:15pm) — As you well know, in 1998 voters approved $118 million (out of $246 million)in bonds for the parkway to be matched by $250 million in federal dollars (along with some $650 million in federal money for other items in the Trinity project). The bond approval and the federal matching funds were predicated on a comprehensive design to include flood ways, levee improvements,waterways, open space, and a parkway. You have made your opposition to the placement of the parkway within the levees well known. The evidence, when it all comes in, may yet prove you right. But to reject these dollars altogether would be to renege on the 1998 vote and unravel the entire project.

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HUNT (2:04am) — The notion that the Trinity Toll Road either secures funds for the Trinity River Corridor Project or that its demise will eliminate or jeopardize funding for other aspects of the plan, is factually incorrect. While this premise has been central to the strategy used by toll road advocates (”Don’t send a billion dollars down the river…”), you do a disservice to your readers and this project by continuing to espouse untruths that are belied by the facts.

You: “In 1998 voters approved $118 million … in bonds for the parkway to be matched by $250 million in federal dollars….”

Fact: In 1998 voters approved $118 million in Trinity bond funds for transportation projects. Of that, $84 million has been allocated to the Trinity Toll Road. There was and is no federal commitment to fund the Trinity Toll Road. There is no Congressional legislation or departmental agreements to that effect, and the FHWA has not allocated any funding to this toll road.

The Trinity Toll Road is a joint project between the City, the NTTA, and TXDOT. Currently, the funding for the toll road is: $84 million from the City of Dallas, $150 – $200 million in state gas tax dollars, and some unspecified amount from the NTTA in the range of $400 to $500 million. At an estimated cost of $1.8 billion, there is currently a $1 billion funding gap.

You: “[The city will receive] $650 million in federal money for other items in the Trinity project….”

Fact: Perhaps these are the federal funds you fear the city will lose if we do not move forward with the toll road? Rest assured, none of this federal funding is dependent on the toll road. The city has already received $183.6 million in federal funding for various projects, along with a 2007 Congressional authorization for $459 million for the Dallas Floodway Project.

The $183,575,736 in federal funding for the Trinity River Corridor Project breaks down as follows: $71,258,508 for the Dallas Floodway Extension Project, $8,324,205 for the Upper Trinity River Feasibility Study, $577,200 for the Bureau of Reclamation Study, $8,000,000 for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge (Woodall Rogers), $81,616,280 for the Margaret McDermott Bridge (I-30), and $13,799,543 for the I-35 Bridge.

In 2007, Congress passed a Water Resources Development Act which included a $459 million authorization for the Dallas Floodway Project. This was only an authorization, and funding will have to be secured in future Energy and Water Appropriations. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, has stated unequivocally that this funding is in no way related to or dependent upon the Trinity Toll Road.

You: “…federal matching funds were predicated on a comprehensive design to include flood ways, levee improvements, waterways, open space, and a parkway.”

Fact: The only “federal matching funds” in this project involve the Corps’ Dallas Floodway Extension Project. City bond money and private contributions are paying for the Trinity Park.

The only part of the project that is in any way intertwined with the toll road is the lakes’ excavation. Here’s how that works, in theory: The NTTA has agreed to excavate the city’s lakes, and will use that dirt for the base of the toll road. The Corps will also use the excavated material to raise the levees, and that will serve as the city’s funding portion of the Dallas Floodway Extension Project. This is all hypothetical because it is unknown whether the excavated dirt will be suitable for use in either the toll road base or the levee raise. If the toll road were not built within the levees, the city would have to find funding to excavate the lakes, either by reallocating current TRCP bond funds, seeking additional bond funds from voters, or obtaining private funding. The most recent estimate for lake excavation is roughly $30 million.

Perhaps when you talk of federally-funded projects, you are actually referring to Project Pegasus – TxDOT’s reconstruction and realignment of the Mixmaster, Lower Stemmons, and the Canyon intended to relieve traffic congestion in Downtown Dallas. TxDOT has stated that they are moving forward with Project Pegasus with or without the toll road. (Interestingly, at a cost of $1.463 billion, Project Pegasus is now less expensive than the Trinity Toll Road.)

These facts contradict your statements that the city risks “unravel[ing] the entire project” by eliminating the toll road from the levees or (as you stated in 2007) that “The entire Trinity project is premised on the federal money the parkway attracts.”

I do not presume that you are part of a grand conspiracy to ensure the construction of the Trinity Toll Road. But your profound ignorance about this project, combined with your lack of hesitation to opine about its financing with unwavering authority, make you complicit with those who knowingly mislead the public. Because your voice carries considerable weight in our city, it is imperative that the information you provide is accurate and your opinions based in fact.

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ALLISON (4:47am) — You are retailing once again the same arguments you wholesaled in 2007. And you are doing so, once again, disingenuously. To say, for example, that, “There was and is no federal commitment to fund the Trinity Toll Road” is a fact that hides the truth. The FHWA did not just complete a 4,000 page environmental report on the parkway because it had nothing better to do. There can be no commitment of money until the FHWA knows how much money needs to be committed. That depends on the final route, which has not yet been selected.

As for Project Pegasus, it is again true that it can proceed without the reliever route. It is a separate project, separately funded. But once again, you are being disingenuous. Since 1998, the parkway reliever route has been a part of the planning for Pegasus, just as DART has been for the light rail portion, also separately funded. For more information on how these projects are intertwined, I direct you to the Project Pegasus website.

Your modus operandi is to pull at every thread in your lawyerly way until one comes loose. My concern is that then the entire project unravels, and it is precisely the lake escavation to which I am referring. That was my position in 2007 when I opposed your referendum.

The original 1998 plan, as you say, included lake excavation in the costs of the parkway construction. I have no reason to doubt your quote of a $30-million price tag for that, although I had not heard that figure. In the post that launched this discussion I stated my concern that the cost escalations due to meeting the Corps’ objections will skyrocket. Once the FHWA and the Corps have completed their engineering studies and negotiated their final settlement of the outstanding issues, the FHWA will have to determine if the cost of the inside-the-levee option is worth it. You and I will have to wait on that. However, it is unlikely, considering how tied the reliever route is to the Pegasus Project that the FHWA will abandon it altogether. I hope not. When talking about billions, it is easy in your disingenuous way to make the $30 million cost of lake escavation sound like a rounding error. But if there is no reliever road, that money will have to paid by Dallas, and Dallas does not have the money. Could you tell us now whether you would vote to raise taxes to pay it? That thread, once pulled, can indeed unravel the whole project.

But you are not against a reliever road, or at least you weren’t in 2007. Is that correct? In fact, I recall that your campaign proposed Industrial as an alternative route. With the costs of the inside-the-levee option skyrocketing, either it or the original notion of two roads, one on either side of the river, seem to be the only options. Would you object to either of those? Perhaps in my profound ignorance I am confused as to where you stand. You do not make my education any easier when you continue to issue statements intentionally designed to obscure rather than elucidate the facts.

80 comments on “Angela Hunt v. Wick Allison on the Trinity

  1. If this “planning” has been going on for over 10 years and 3 mayors, how is it possible to have this statement made today:

    “This is all hypothetical because it is unknown whether the excavated dirt will be suitable for use in either the toll road base or the levee raise.”

    Soil core samples on a billion dollar plus project should have been taken prior to any study or report being issued that would tell exactly what the engineers were dealing with.
    For $100,000 in 1997 or whenever, they could have told us exactly what soil conditions existed so there would be no surprises at this stage of the game. It makes me question any and all assumptions made by either side.

    Why do we expect tax payers from Alaska to Florida to pay for our town lake boondoggle? The country is running trillion dollar deficits and we are lining up for billions to fund this local project. Isn’t this indicative of the money grab that is the very reason that the federal budget is out of control?

    Who owns the land that will benefit the most from this project being completed?

    As for me, I’m going to rent “Chinatown” and watch it again.

  2. Alan Steelman didn’t kill the Trinity Navigation Plan in 1973 but was ony one among many who opposed and fought against the canal idea. The plans then, as now, were far too ambitious and costly, even fanciful, for the times.

  3. @Dubious Brother

    Chinatown?! I love it!

    The Hunt/Wick debate reminds me of the scene where Jake (Hunt) slaps Evelyn (Wick) because he wants to know the identity of the girl.

    (Slap)
    “Sand!”
    (Slap)
    “Trinity Project Collapse!”
    (Slap)
    “Sand!”
    (Slap)
    “Trinity Project Collapse!”

  4. Wick – we will build a tollway if the Park Cities really, really wants it. All we ask in return is that you integrate your schools.

  5. Just a few observations:

    1) The fundamental problem we have in this and all other current debates in this city (e.g., a convention center hotel, expansion of DART, a streetcar, the Trinity) is that there is a growing credibility gap. Even the Dallas Morning News has been forced to acknowledge that during the election 18 months ago, the mayor shilled nothing but Grade-A bullshit to the voters. Hence, nobody can really trust him when he tells us we need a convention center hotel (and he may actually be right). Meanwhile, Ms. Hunt against demonstrates why her credibility is high–any contention she makes is backed up by documentary facts.

    2) This blog entry and the attached comments demonstrates why I won’t mind a bit when the Dallas Morning News stops printing in a few months. If this debate happened even just five years ago, the only thing we’d hear about it would be a story on the “Metro” page of the DMN. Ms. Hunt’s factual contentions would be buried in the seventeenth paragraph of the story, which would be headlined something along the lines of “Jesus Appears Over Trinity; Mandates Tollroad.”

    3) Ms. Hunt does a nice job of demonstrating in a few short posts everything I love and hate about lawyers. C’mon, Angela–he’s not responding to an interrogatory under Rule 197; let him round up to the nearest million dollars.

    4) I assume that since I am neither Angela Hunt nor Wick Allison, nobody’s actually going to read my post (much as I skip over everyone else’s). So comfortable in that knowledge, let me just say . . . “San Dimas High School football rules!”

  6. Michael Lindenberger of the DMN transportation blogs has just posted what he claims was reported in October 2007.

    Summation: The vast majority of funds for the park are secured and/or unrelated to the toll road. Therefore, removal of the toll road would not block development of the park.

    Winner: Angela Hunt

  7. Could the Trinity River park be built without the Trinity Parkway?
    4:40 PM Tue, Mar 24, 2009
    Michael Lindenberger

    In the wake of Sunday’s story about the Trinity Parkway, there’s been a lively debate across local blogs regarding what’s ahead for the project. Is it doomed, as Angela Hunt predicts? Or merely suffering some regulatory slings and arrows as Mayor Tom Leppert insists?

    The debate continued last night online over at Frontburner, where Hunt and D Magazine publish Wick Allison squabbled all night long, apparently.

    Some of the the points they are fighting about are more easily cleared up than others. But here’s a start.

    They raise the question of whether the Trinity Parkway is necessary for the Trinity River Corridor project? In other words, if the road is killed does that mean the park, too, will be killed — as many toll road proponents alleged during the campaign?

    We answered that question in October, 2007. The answer is no. Here’s how that story began:

    A decision by Dallas voters Nov. 6 to nix the Trinity toll road probably wouldn’t stop work on the other aspects of the park-and-levee project – but it would leave the city scrambling to find millions of dollars in lost funding.
    Supporters of the toll road have often warned that voting for the ballot measure could cost the city as much as $1 billion in lost funds. But the majority of those at-risk dollars would pay for the controversial road – a road that, if the measure succeeds, would no longer be part of the park project.

    By contrast, most of the money for developing the park’s other aspects – including its levees, lakes and green space – has either already been secured or is largely unrelated to the vote on the Trinity toll road.
    “The city is committed to building the Trinity River Corridor Project, as much as possible with the available funding, regardless of the outcome of the election,” said Rebecca Dugger, the project’s manager at City Hall.

    The federal documents released in the past month reiterate this point, describing each of the projects — the parks, the floodway improvements, and the parkway — as being independent of the others, for purposes of federal review.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t efficiencies created by doing them together, however. As Allison points out, for instance, if NTTA builds the road they plan to use the dirt that would be dug out for the lakes to do so,. If they don’t the city would have to pay for that excavation and removal itself – at a tune of some $25 to $30 million. There are some other tie-ins, too, but that’s the biggest dollar figure. For a project that will cost many, many times that, it’s hard to argue that a price tag of $30 to, say, $40 million more would kill the parks project.

    Others argue, however, that should the Parkway be doomed, the blow to the parks would be a psychic one. After all these years, they argue the project could lose critical momentum — not an unreasonable position, but one that’s certainly harder to prove. Former City Council member Craig Holcomb told me last week — in a bit that we didn’t have room for in the story — that another concern during the 2007 campaign was that some of the voters who approved the 1998 bond package did so explicitly because they supported the road project, and didn’t care a bit for the parks. He said:

    “The citizens had turned down Town Lake and other projects between the levees repeatedly. Some people voted for the project because of the parkway, and there is a commitment therefore to those people. And without that vote (for the bond package) we would not have the Great Trinity Forest and we would not have the lakes that will come as a result of the project.”
    Now, your turn.

  8. Craig Holcomb is on acid if he really thinks the majority of voters would have said, “Screw that stinking park unless it’s right next to a four (or six) lane limited access, high-speed turnpike that’s full of cars spewing all kinds of crap into the air!”

  9. I want Angela to start a magazine and hire Adam. She can hire the rest of D’s editorial staff later, just like Wick did from the Met…

  10. This has to be some kind of joke. Can anyone imagine what over 1 bill. would do for the neighborhoods in Dallas? Life could get better for the residents for a change. Either way, I’m with Ms Hunt on this one. Tenacious. Respect.

  11. Troll Doll – Your writing style is remarkably familiar.

    ROJ – Good point. The staff has been silent on these debates (I’m discounting Rogers’ dart at Shutze.), and I’m pretty sure most, if not all, disagree with their boss.

  12. Mike, I’ve been told I resemble a young Hemingway, but I can’t possibly be that florid.

  13. And to think I’ve been up all night waiting on Wick’s response to Angela’s last set of questions. I guess Ferdie Pacheco is having a difficult time with the patch job on Wick.

    KO = Hunt

  14. So in today’s DMN editorial page, Mayor Leppert “glossed over” some facts, while Angela Hunt “outright lied”.

    They just won’t give up.

  15. Political will to move forward with a parks & recreation project will wither and perish once higher powers nix the toll road.

    But at least Stemmons will still get flowers on his grave once a week.

  16. And of course we have the idiot Steve Blow comments this morning. He really should stick to the stories about his favorite mens restroom at a ice cream store having a dirty floor.

  17. troll doll – but you don’t have an adam’s apple. I thought you hated pseudonyms, BTW. Didn’t you quit posting here? Welcome back.

  18. I’m afraid I don’t quite agree with those who describe Ms. Hunt as an efficient assembly line worker who makes her colleagues look bad and causes their resentment. An assembly line worker actually produces something other than criticism. In general–and even leaving this Trinity debate aside–Hunt proves to be the political incarnation of Internal Affairs, overturning every stone in order to cast them at anyone who comes up with an idea.

    In my view, Hunt has proven adept only at exploiting weaknesses in her opponents’ ability to argue in favor of their theories–not weaknesses in the theories themselves. More important, where are HUNT’S ideas? We cannot continue to suffer the “pothole mentality” of the Laura Miller era that drove major projects and opportunities away from Dallas. Let’s hear it, Angela. What should we do to improve our city? Give us an idea, not a perpetual critique.

  19. Nice try Colossus D Head. We have brains.
    Ms Hunt is the one with the ideas. Wick is the one is a perpetual backtracking mode.

  20. Thanks for the explanation of Hunt’s ideas, Freaking. Very enlightening. My point was that I grow weary of Hunt’s critiques, since it’s always easier to break down another’s ideas than it is to come up with one of your own. I didn’t mention anything about Wick Allison’s stance on Trinity–I’m asking Angela to provide us with a progressive plan to improve our city.

    Note what this comment does not contain: an insult protected by anonymity. There’s no valid reason we can’t disagree in an electronic forum without returning to the island from Lord of the Flies.

  21. @Colossus

    Every time someone exposes this Trinity parkway fraud, its proponents redirect the conversation to the opponents’ personalities. Wick tried to do it with his ham-handed posts. The DMN has long done this.

    As Freaking said, “nice try.”

  22. Garbage. The point on Hunt has nothing to do with her personality, but with her political propensity to identify flaws in others’ arguments instead of proposing her own solutions. I’m not saying her own ideas aren’t valid. I’m saying I’ve never heard her express her own ideas–she simply knocks down those she opposes. It’s that simple. “Don’t come to me with a problem unless you bring a solution.” Can’t we ask that of these bright minds?

  23. @Colussus

    Nonsense. You can ask those questions IF you are in her district or IF she runs for mayor. (Tip: If you owned two houses (e.g. one in HP and one near your office on Oak Lawn) you could not do the former, but you could do the latter.)

    Until then, your argument has everything to do with her personality, which is the M.O. of the parkway proponents whenever they are losing the debate. Like now.

  24. @steak

    Actually, you can ask questions whenever you like. See how I asked them in the prior post? That’s strong evidence that I can ask them. You don’t have to live in a particular councilperson’s district to ask what their proposed solution is to a problem they raise with a program that affects the entire city. Where did you get that idea?

    Regardless, (1) I live in Ms. Hunt’s district, not in HP or Oak Lawn (though two houses would be nice); and (2) I’m not a proponent of anything relating to the Trinity project other than consensus and progress. Your arguments suffer from the same ad hominem fallacies you complain are directed at Ms. Hunt. Not everyone who supports the Trinity project, or who simply questions Ms. Hunt’s methods, is a Beemer-driving member of the aristocracy you so clearly detest. Likewise, not everyone who opposes the Trinity project lives in the M Streets, rides a bicycle, and yells at people in their McMansions. Take a break from the stereotyping and it will serve you well in making reasoned argument.

  25. @Colus (may I be chummy?)

    First, you are an excellent writer. Professional quality. In fact, I’d bet you’d be a hell of a publisher, too.

    It’s true I don’t like people who act like aristocracy, but I am very fond of, and very familiar with, finance and commerce, so your stereotype of me is off-the-mark. Gosh, I hate hypocrisy.

    Clearly, you don’t like a certain local politician. Fine. Noted. I’m not worried about this politician’s methods if they are ethical, legal and serve the greater good of the community.

    Again, I think proponents are using personalities to defend the Trinity Tollway. It’s disappointing, and their venom is perplexing? Why is so much energy being devoted to defending this cluster?